Saturday, February 12, 2011
Can newspaper photography be art?
A resounding yes if Fred Comegys is holding the camera! Although he protests that he has never thought of it as art, Mr. Comegys’ photographs reveal that he is always looking for the different angle, the grittiness, the photographic statement.
And brava to Executive Director Danielle Rice for deciding to keep to her ‘let’s get local’ theme. The crowd at the opening of the exhibit was very large and many of them were young people who had never been to the Delaware Art Museum before. They filed politely through the very small gallery where curator Heather Coyle Campbell had hung what she had feared would be a very small number of photographs – but finally on Monday, February 4, she received the last of 65 pictures from Mr. Comegys.
At the opening Comegys noted that photojournalists go from one appointment to the next – Wilmington in the morning, Middletown at noon and then some. The mission is speed. The mission is to report. And, as he pointed out with some contrition, the mission is often to catch people when they are not at their best.
Mr. Comegys’ work can even catch people at their worst. His photo of The Rolling Stones at a concert gives Jagger a mean and threatening look – and his several photos of Ku Klux Klan meetings put the spotlight on individual Klansmen with disturbing clarity – one of which is labeled Rev. Dorsett preaching at a Ku Klux Klan Rally, Bear, Delaware, 1965. This is a disturbing photograph.
Yet Comegys can also paint people at their best. Ted Kennedy standing among the nuns and teachers of St. Mark’s High School looks like an angel come to earth. Did you mean that, Fred, or did it just happen?
Photos: Top, left to right: 1. U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy at St. Mark's High School, Wilmington, 1972. 2. Spiderman in the net, St. Georges Bridge, St. Georges, DE October 1971.
3. Sister Mary Francis tosses a football during recreation period, The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, Wilmington, Delaware May 1984. Bottom right: Port Deposit, Maryland Flood, June 26, 1972.